Katie Reads: Vigilante

*I received an advanced reader’s copy of this book in exchange for an honest review*

*Trigger Warning – This book deals with rape and suicide, and this review touches on both*

Vigilante by Kady Cross

It’s senior year, and Hadley and her best friend, Magda, should be starting the year together. Instead, Magda is dead and Hadley is alone. Raped at a party the year before and humiliated, Magda was driven to take her own life and Hadley is forced to see her friend’s attackers in the classroom every day. Devastated, enraged and needing an outlet for her grief, Hadley decides to get a little justice of her own.

Donning a pink ski mask and fueled by anger, Hadley goes after each of the guys one by one, planning to strip them of their dignity and social status the way they did to Magda. As the legend of the pink-masked Vigilante begins to take on a life of its own, Hadley’s revenge takes a turn for the dangerous. Could her need for vengeance lead her down a path she can’t turn back from?

Vigilante by Kady Cross is the feminist revenge fantasy I have been waiting for.  Articles about rape make my blood boil. Worse are the numerous articles where there is so much evidence, but the perpetrator walks free with little to no punishment. I’m sure I’m not the only one who has wondered what it would be like to teach rapists a lesson.

Through Vigilante, we can see what that would be like without, you know, actually breaking the law for punching someone. And it felt good. Watching Hadley grapple emotionally with the rape and subsequent suicide of her best friend by seeking revenge on those who did was incredibly satisfying. That said, the book makes a point of steering clear from mindless violence. Hadley wonders often if revenge is really the right path, and if her best friend, Magda, would have even wanted Hadley to avenge her. Cross also did a really nice job conveying the blame and PTSD survivors of sexual assault face, and the survivor’s guilt that those who know them may feel. Hadley struggles with feeling like she should have been able to do something to stop Magda’s rape, and Hadley has a nice arc where she slowly comes to terms with and resolves her guilt.

Other elements I enjoyed – I loved watching how many different women in the book become empowered to fight back against rape and help defend other women. Although this book was written before the Women’s March on Washington, I’m sure parallels will be drawn between the pink hats marchers wore and the pink ski mask that Hadley dons. Cross also depicts healthy physical relationships to provide contrast, and it was refreshing to see a book that both attacks rape and those who perpetrate it, but also embraces consenting sexual relationships.

A few other reviews I’ve seen talk about how the events in the book feel unrealistic, and maybe there is something a little unrealistic about a woman dressing up and attacking bad guys, but I was all for it, and frankly I thought Cross did a good job framing it to be as plausible as possible (Hadley is an experienced martial artist, and she takes as many punches as she throws).

While this book is too mature for my middle grade students, I would recommend it to anyone else who has ever been frustrated with how many people blame rape victims, and how often rapists walk free.

Vigilante by Kady Cross comes out March 28th.